Pitt ‘geek theater’ production travels to downtown Pittsburgh
How do you get to know someone after she’s died?
In Qui Nguyen’s play, “She Kills Monsters,” the quest is accomplished through a game of Dungeons & Dragons.
The University of Pittsburgh Department of Theatre Arts will present the award-winning play at 8 p.m. April 18 in the August Wilson Cultural Center in Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.
The story follows Agnes Evans as she finds a D&D game scenario written by her younger sister, Tilly, who has died in a car accident. Agnes enlists a “dungeon master” for help playing Tilly’s quest, encountering a world of fantastical challenges and creatures, including — yes — monsters.
“It’s a way to get to know the sister she didn’t know when she was alive,” says co-director Kelly Trumbull, a Carnegie Mellon University lecturer and visiting assistant professor at Pitt. “She comes away with new-found love and appreciation for her.”
The production had a two-week run last October in the Charity Randall Theatre on the Pitt campus, also co-directed by Trumbull and Pitt lecturer Ricardo Vila- Roger.
“The cultural trust approached us about moving it downtown for one night only, to open it up to a broader audience,” she says.
The April 18 performance is part of the trust’s Multiple Choice Events programming, described as “a series which invites you to expand your horizons with innovative, edgy programming.”
“It’s a relatively popular play in college theater communities,” Trumbull says. “It has stage combat that’s really fun, fighting and monsters, and it has themes that are relatable to the college-age population: themes of empowerment, self-forgiveness, love and acceptance.”
Along with that, there’s also a lot of comedy intertwined.
“She Kills Monsters” received a Distinguished Play Award in 2013 from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.
Playwright Nguyen is the founder of the Obie Award-winning Vampire Cowboys, described on its website as “a ‘geek theatre’ company that creates and produces new works of theatre based in action/adventure and dark comedy with a comic book aesthetic.”
Tickets for Multiple Choice Events come with an after-party at the venue, featuring cash bar and music by DJ Inception.
Trumbull says the “Monsters” party will also have dancing and Knights of the Arcade, an improv troupe that stages comedic D&D mini-quests built on audience suggestions.
“She Kills Monsters” features a student cast of 11, Trumbull says. One original cast member is studying abroad and will be replaced by a professional actor who is a Pitt graduate.
Cast members have continued to rehearse once a month since the fall, “but we’re doing everything else at August Wilson in one day,” Trumbull says. “We’re moving sets in the morning and the actors will come in to rehearse in the afternoon.
“It’s very challenging, but it will be a good for the student actors, to give them understanding of how it is to be on the road, or in a mobile production,” she says. “It’s a cool-slash-terrifying experience.”
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .